Yeah, I'm Marking Out a Bit

Bret Hart's coming back to the WWE next week, with a storyline likely building to a match with Vince and/or Shawn at Wrestlemania.

Now if only the WWE actually had some younger talent worth a damn... Seamus as the champ? Seriously? That's the best they can do?

The Friendly Skies

This is a fascinating read after having seen Up In the Air last night.

There is no mention of terrorism whatsoever in Reitman's movie. No paranoia, no fear, nothing. Clooney's character spends his life aboard airplanes and never once shows a trace of worry that his life choice might get him blown up. You see security screenings, but they are from the point of view of maximum efficiency and how quickly Clooney can get through them with a minimum of fuss. There's no sense that they are serving a useful purpose.

And that attitude is, to me, much closer to sanity than the hysterical shriekings we've been getting from the usual suspects since Christmas.

Sully Gets Hysterical

No, the recent near-miss in the skies was not a "massive failure by DHS", unless you believe it's DHS' job to prevent anyone from even attempting violence on an airplane.

The fact of the matter is that the existing restrictions forced a terrorist to use a hapless, hopeless would-be incendiary device that would get laughed off the set of an episode of Mythbusters.

That's not failure, that's success.


My annual search for the worst Christmas wrapping paper I can find hasn't gone particularly well this year, mainly due to my lack of time to search for some. (Working 10+ hours every day leading up to Christmas probably has something to do with that.) The dollar store at Danforth and Broadview turned up a contender tonight though: silver foil Santa paper, on which a somewhat disturbingly infantized Santa is cross-country skiing using candy canes for skis.


- Santa was apparently hit by the global recession too and could no longer afford the upkeep on reindeer, forcing him instead to get around on edible skis
- it's really crappy foil, and impossible to cut straight because the edge frays as soon as you cut it
- I'm hoping the sack on his back contains a sniper rifle instead of toys, indicating that Santa is an avid biathlon aficionado
- it's made in Indonesia. Nothing says Christmas like Indonesia.


- it's reasonably pretty
- it's got a cheerful-looking Santa on it
- because it's foil, I can't use the scraps to make name tags

All in all it's not bad for a first effort, but I'm hoping I luck into something worse/better later this week. Nothing's gonna top that green and silver cosmonaut paper I found one year up on St. Clair though.

Wait For It... Wait For It...

So with the plans to close Guantanamo proceeding apace and a facility found to house those who the government deems unreleasable, how long until:

a) some wingnut blogger claims that the weekend jailbreak in the Philippines was just a trial run for a similar attempt to storm whatever American jail we move Gitmo prisoners to?; and

b) some idiot in Congress repeats that claim in a desperate, pathetic display of NIMBY-ism?

Or has a) happened already, and I just missed it?

Caple Goes Rogue

It would be nice if the hypocritical shite Caple points out in regards to Tiger Woods coverage were only true of sports journalism, and not the whole wretched profession.

It would also be nice if I had Tiger Woods' bank account.


The busker this morning at Union Station was dressed like Bob Crachit wearing his Sunday best (complete with dilapidated stovetop hat), and playing Greensleeves on his harp.

Yes, harp. And not as in 'harmonica'.

I Want One

If and when I am a homeowner, I may just get Werner Sobek to design it for me.

This is a better pic of one of his Triple Zero homes. Not to date myself as an old Claremont X-Men fan, but that'd probably be as close as I'll ever get to living in Forge's swanky all-glass-and-hologram-projectors pad.

Onward Christian Soldiers

The DC Archdiocese has declared that if Washington is going to become a new Sodom and legalize same-sex marriage, they're going to cease performing all charitable activities within the city.

The excuse is that the law would require them to extend same-sex benefits to employees.

"If the city requires this, we can't do it," Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday. "The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."

I'm sure there will be a big rush of church employees looking to get hitched with their same-sex partners once the law passes...

If politics have become more important to the archdiocese than charity, then they're in the wrong business.

OK, I Admit It

I welled up a bit watching this.

No matter what else you have to say about Sully, his continued show of solidarity for the kids in Iran fighting to take their country back has been amazing.

Oh Noes!

ACORN has infiltrated the judicial system!

Insert usual snark here. Frankly I'm bored with the whole thing. If the best the wingnuts can do for a boogeyman is ACORN, they deserve political death.

This Is a Fun Game

Let's try to think of worse safe words than 'green balloons':



Semantic antics

Andrei Kirilenko (shout-out to all my peeps in Utah with that one)

The Raptors Wake Up

I said at the beginning of the season that it might not be until December that the Raptors started gelling as a team, what with the roster upheaval and all.

It looks like gelling time has arrived. After winning a tough road game in overtime last night in Washington, they are currently running the Bulls out of their own building. One sequence in particular stood out for me: the Raps reeled off four consecutive possessions, collecting offensive rebounds off three straight misses before Calderon buried a three to pretty much end the game with two quarters to go.

If you've been watching the Raps for a while you know how mind-bogglingly weird that sequence is. They're the team, historically, giving up all those offensive boards, not the team ripping them down.

They were up by 20 at the half, then extended that to 30+ in the third quarter (which had been their let-down quarter in the first two months, especially after a big first half -- the Denver game was probably the most egregious example.) It got so bad that on the last possession of the third quarter, Jarret Jack let the clock wind down by tucking the ball under his arm, leaning over and re-tying his shoelace.

In the annals of awesome dick moves in sporting events, that has to rank way up there.

After looking like total crap last week, the Raps are suddenly not just looking like a playoff team, they're looking like a dangerous one. They've hit bottom (coughAtlantacough), plunged through the crucible and come together as a team in the fire.

The Raps (Antoine Wright excepted... he still looked like his head wasn't in the game tonight) have figured out how they need to play to win basketball games. Now, they just have to keep doing it.

One more thing: Bryan Colangelo has done a great job building the roster not just for this year, but for next. If Bosh stays, great -- they've got five guys who can score in the starting lineup and some good plug-n-play pieces off the bench, and a roster that can play defense just well enough when they need to. If Bosh walks though, they can just find a defensive load to play center and block some shots, move Bargnani to the four and still have a dangerous offense with a better defense. Either way, it should be a solid team.

OK, two more things: DeMar DeRozan is going to be friggin' awesome. In a season or two he'll be Vince Carter without the sucky attitude. It's going to be a blast watching him evolve into Air Canada 2.0.

Next Stop: Blackface

I've noticed my repertoire has become very vanilla over the last couple of months. I'm not doing as much Prince (which is usually my go-to non-white guy) for one thing, but even beyond that the Motown and soul experiments seem to have mostly disappeared.

This must change, and not just with me nutting up and trying I Know You Got Soul (gulp) at Hip-Hop Karaoke. There's all kinds of stuff I've been meaning to try at 'regular' karaoke sometime: Use Me, Family Affair, Stand By Me...

This is the month for at least some of those.

Most Ridiculous Scrabble Game Ever

Remember that Facebook Scrabble game where I made the two 90-point plays back-to-back, and typed a word in the chat box (Justice!) and promptly got handed the letters to spell it?

I've now collected four bingos in eight plays: REZONING, JUSTICE, AUNTIES and now LIBERATE. I have 397 points. Off eight words. It's sick.


The Grand Undead Party meme taken to its logical conclusion:

Zombie Reagan Raised From Grave To Lead GOP

The New Me

I think I need to say something about my Brainsgiving experience.

First, it was a tremendous show. Ryan Belleville absolutely killed; if you see his name on a bill, kick the walker out from under a grandma to get inside the venue. He's got the chops, the material and the on-stage energy to be absolutely huge. Jillian Thomas also more than earned her three-year merit badge. Pat Thornton spun his usual crazy gold, Statutory Jape were excellent... hell, everyone was good.

Including (so I've been told) me.

Keith and Amanda talked me into closing the show (Pat was the headliner... I got the traditional vaudeville "act who performs while people are leaving the theatre" slot). I went on stage as a lounge singer version of Carl Jung, serenading our brain mascot with a version of Dream Weaver in mixed English/pidgin German (oooo, TraumWeber, I believe you can get me through die nacht, etc etc), which then morphed into 99 Luftballons.

Of course on stage, all the fractured German I'd crammed into my brain fled, and I just garbled out some harsh syllables and hoped no one would notice (or at least, everyone would be polite enough not to call me on it afterwards, which they didn't.) But dammit, it felt good to actually be performing, backed by a real band. Way better than even the thrill of live band karaoke.

More importantly, my own brain has been working better since Saturday night. I'm writing some good stuff, and kicking out some wicked ideas. Last night at "regular" karaoke I tried something batshit crazy (Roundabout by Yes) and it was mostly solid (I bluffed my way through the bridge, but I doubt even Jon Anderson call pull that thing off these days.)

I may even start doing some open mic stand-up, just to see if I can.

Up until now, when it came time to help out with Brainsgiving (or the Eyes show last year, when we did the marathon Nuit Blanche show) I was always reluctant. I was a writer, not a performer (and a lover not a fighter).

Today, I feel like a performer too.

November's Travesties

35 different songs, not including the pseudo-German TraumWeber... err, Dream Weaver/99 Luftballons medley at Brainsgiving:

19th Nervous Breakdown - Rolling Stones
Animal Nitrate - Suede
Battle of Who Could Care Less - Ben Folds Five
Because the Night - Patti Smith Group
Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes
Changes - David Bowie
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da - Police
Deacon Blues - Steely Dan
Doctor My Eyes - Jackson Browne
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - Bob Dylan
Dragula - Rob Zombie
Five Years - David Bowie
Fuck Her Gently - Tenacious D
High School Confidential - Rough Trade
Hungry Like the Wolf - Duran Duran
In Bloom - Nirvana
Kooks - Davd Bowie
Lawyers, Guns and Money - Warren Zevon
Lean On Me - Bill Withers
Lose Yourself - Eminem
Lucky Man - Verve
Mississippi Queen - Mountain
Not Fade Away - Rolling Stones
Paperback Writer - Beatles
Pulling Mussels From the Shell - Squeeze
Roundabout - Yes
Save It For Later - English Beat
Spread Your Wings - Queen
Sunglasses At Night - Corey Hart
The Letter - Box Tops
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - The Band
Up On Cripple Creek - The Band
Watching the Detectives - Elvis Costello
When Love Comes To Town - U2 w/BB King
You Sexy Thing - Hot Chocolate

Aw, Shucks

Scratch Huckabee's name off the list of "viable" Pub presidential candidates in 2012.

It's too bad. Huck's a right entertaining fella, and he certainly would have livened up the proceedings.

On the other hand, without Huckabee to split the fundie vote, Palin's path to the nomination gets a bit easier...


In the annals of stupid art ideas, this has got to be in the top 10. "Hey, you know what would be awesome? Let's take a great painting created to convey a sense of three dimensions within the confines of two-dimensional space, and use CGI to make it three dimensional!"

If Picasso had wanted anyone to see the backsides of the figures in Guernica, he would have painted them. That was the entire point of Cubism.

Maybe next, someone can play connect-the-dots with Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

(via Sully, who completely fails to get in his usual Burkean dander over the pointless jazzing up of a painting that needs no help.)

Hondurans Ignore Fake Election in Droves

Al has a picture worth a thousand... whachamacallems...

Weekend Craziness

On Saturday I'll be taking part in the third annual Brainsgiving comedy benefit show in support of St. Michael's Hospital Neurotrauma ICU. I will be playing a dragon, and Carl Jung.

Then on Sunday, Honduras will have a sham election that hopefully won't tear the country in two.

The TTC's Bad PR Clinic Part III

It gets worse.

1) The TTC is continuing their "tokens are sold out" line of bullshit, and have now begun selling paper tickets instead of tokens.

The very same paper tickets they pulled out of circulation last year because they were deemed too easy to counterfeit.

Translation: "We'd rather get ripped off than have our regular customers put some tokens aside in advance of a fare hike."

Oh, by the way, how do I know the supposed token shortage is bullshit? The automated machines still dispense them, although they're now programmed to only sell one at a time.

2) The TTC followed up their useless flyers advising people to move down the southbound platform at Bloor/Yonge by setting up wooden barriers during morning rush hour to try and force people coming off the Bloor/Danforth line to walk fifty feet out of the their way before boarding the train.

Need to run to catch that southbound train before it leaves? The TTC spits in your face. Like to board the train at the back because that's where the exit is at your station? Go fuck yourself, is apparently the TTC's response.

The first morning I saw the barrier, there were 10 TTC employees loitering around it, plus four TTC pseudocops. Maybe after the fare hike, they'll be able to afford six cops!

3) I decided to switch to the tickets for the moment to guard my small stash of tokens. When I gently bitched to the collector about how ridiculous it was, given that tickets are useless at unmanned entrances, she nodded in agreement and told me to make sure the higher-ups in the TTC heard my complaint. Not in order to release the tokens, mind you -- she said it was so the TTC would start manning those entrances.

Yes, additional labour costs which could be used to justify further rate hikes... another brilliant solution to a fabricated problem.

I hope the weather doesn't get too cold this winter. I suddenly have the urge to do a lot of walking.


Palin's book can't even cite the rules to Scrabble correctly.

I mean, Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick, did no one fact-check or edit the thing at all? (Yes, that was rhetorical). How hard would it have been to say, "Everyone took great pride in hoarding the rarer/more valuable/any-goddamn-phrase-you-want-that-means-'worth more points'-without-actually-naming-letters tiles and slapping them down..."


In a completely unrelated event, the weirdest thing happened to me in Facebook Scrabble. I just started a fifth game with Steve-O from Neutral having just tied the series 2-2, barely squeaking out the fourth game by three points (he had a G left on his rack. You do the math). He had the gall (he won the second game by three points) to bitch about it in chat just as I was set up for a bingo (REZONING, on a double word, 90 points, cha-ching!). I typed "Justice!" into the chat box, played my seven tiles, and received... J-U-S-T-I-C-E on my rack.

Needless to say neither of us were able to duplicate that bit of cosmic weirdness afterwards by typing words into the chat box and then receiving those letters.

Channeling My Inner Sully

OK, let's take it as a given that Sully is right about Levi's cool demeanor in the face of Palin's attacks means he really has something devastating on her, and isn't just a reflection of the sense of invincibility you'd expect from a teenage hockey player.

What the heck could Levi have? It would have to be something tangible; otherwise, it's just a he said/she said situation.

It would have to be something too awful for her devotees to ignore or shrug off; otherwise, it wouldn't be much of a threat to such a talented dissembler as Palin.

And it would have to be something that Levi would have a reason beyond any sympathy for Palin herself to hold back on releasing; otherwise, he'd have let the world know already.

I can think of only one thing off the top of my head that would fit all those criteria, and also tie into Levi's statements that the Palin marriage was a facade: email/text message/photographic proof of Palin making advances towards Levi, and/or of a sexual relationship between the two of them.

Something like that would provide Levi with actual proof, not just hearsay; would kill Palin dead as a political figure; and would be unpleasant at best for Bristol, someone Levi wouldn't want to hurt needlessly.

That theory is, of course, nothing but pure, reckless, unfounded, mean-spirited speculation on my part. But it fits the facts as Sully presents them.

The TTC's Bad PR Clinic Part II

After announcing their upcoming price increase, the TTC immediately started rationing tokens, limiting purchases to five at a time. OK, fine, no big deal, that's just a minor inconvenience.

Yesterday, however, signs started going up on all collector booths saying 'Tokens Sold Out', and they started selling "temporary tickets" instead. This was clearly designed to prevent token hoarding in advance of the upcoming price change.

That'd be a smart move on their part, except for the fact that some subway entrances are only accessible by token or Metropass. So if you don't have a pass, and can't buy tokens, and want to use one of those entrances... the TTC is telling you to go to hell.


Must... Resist... Homicidal Urges...

Wall Street firms are still trading mortgage-backed derivatives, and finding a new way to shift all the risk to the taxpayer:

Investment funds are buying billions of dollars’ worth of home loans, discounted from the loans’ original value. Then, in what might seem an act of charity, the funds are helping homeowners by reducing the size of the loans.

But as part of these deals, the mortgages are being refinanced through lenders that work with government agencies like the Federal Housing Administration. This enables the funds to pocket sizable profits by reselling new, government-insured loans to other federal agencies, which then bundle the mortgages into securities for sale to investors.

While homeowners save money, the arrangement shifts nearly all the risk for the loans to the federal government — and, ultimately, taxpayers — at a time when Americans are falling behind on their mortgage payments in record numbers.

I guess this cuts out the step of having the funds nearly destroy the country before getting bailed out by the federal government. Now we're just pre-bailing out their risky investments. Progress!

Where the hell is an Old Testament biblical plague when you really need one?

Praise the Lord

And pass the ammunition (via JC):

Already facing a spate of private lawsuits, the legal troubles of the country’s largest credit rating agencies deepened on Friday when the attorney general of Ohio sued Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, claiming that they had cost state retirement and pension funds some $457 million by approving high-risk Wall Street securities that went bust in the financial collapse.

The second paragraph could almost be parody:

The case could test whether the agencies’ ratings are constitutionally protected as a form of free speech.

I really hope that's their line of defense, and not a "prove negligence" angle, which might actually give them a chance of wriggling off the hook.

Here's my question though. After the last couple of years, why do these bloodclots still have 85% of the market share in their industry? Isn't the free market supposed to punish companies that fuck up so colossally? The mere fact that they don't have 100% market share proves they have some competition.

The TTC's Bad PR Clinic

So having moved out onto the Danforth, and no longer being within walking distance of work, I thought about starting to get a monthly TTC pass again. The price of a Metropass has gotten ridiculous over the last few years (it works out to a little over 48 rides a month if you buy tokens instead, which means if you work five days a week and ride to and from work every day, you still have to ride the TTC at least nine more times in the month just to break even) but I figured it would probably be worth it, with all the late-night shlepping home from karaoke that I do.

Pretty much as soon as the thought formed in my head, the TTC announced a price hike.

Then, on the heels of the price hike, a road crew did some damage to the roof of the subway tunnel on Yonge Street north of Eglinton Thursday, forcing a service shutdown/delay for most of the day. (This, granted, wasn't the TTC's fault and they did well just to get service going again that night instead of the next day, but everyone blames them for it anyway.)

Then, today, as I switched trains at Bloor/Yonge Station, I was greeted by TTC workers in their spiffy burgundy jackets handing out leaflets. Apologies for the delay the day before, perhaps?

Nope. They were leaflets scolding people to walk down to the end of the platform to avoid crowding.

Now, I have no problem with that sort of scolding on a bus or streetcar, where it doesn't matter much where you stand. But on the subway, where you might need to get on at one end of the train or the other because that's where your exit is? Idiocy. Pure idiocy.

And they paid union employees to dispense this idiocy rather than hiring a bunch of cheap college kids the way the marketing bloodclots who infect Union Station do when they want to distribute free samples of something. I do not wish to speculate on whether these union employees made time-and-a-half for their efforts.

And they do this on the heels of crying poor and announcing a price hike. Right before Christmas. In this economy.

Things I Learned Today

Sarah Palin apparently doesn't believe the Soviet Union was actually evil:

The term I used to describe the panel making these decisions should not be taken literally,” says Palin. The phrase is “a lot like when President Reagan used to refer tothe Soviet Union as the ‘evil empire.’ He got his point across. He got people thinking and researching what he was talking about. It was quite effective. Same thing with the ‘death panels.’ I would characterize them like that again, in a heartbeat.

So Reagan wasn't really saying the USSR was an 'evil empire', he was just being overly dramatic so people would think about and research the Soviet Union, which no one knew much about or paid much attention to in the '80s, and discover for themselves how, err, not-evil it was.

Is that about the jist of it, Sarah?

All Members of the Media Are Dumb

All of them. They must lobotomize you when they hand you your journalism degree. It's the only explanation.

All the shrieking about Bill Belichick's decision last night to spit in the face of Conventional Wisdom and go for it on 4th and 2 inside the Pats' 30 yard line, with a little over two minutes left in the game, is just funny. If you give Peyton the ball back and force him to go 75 yards in two minutes instead of 25, he probably scores anyway. On the other hand, if New England gets the first down there, they can run down the clock and win the game without giving Peyton a chance to beat them. Plus, the high-percentage short pass to Kevin Faulk only came up short because of a) a great tackle by the Colts' defender, and b) a questionable spot by the ref that Belichick couldn't challenge.

The moral of the story is that it doesn't matter in what field you flount Conventional Wisdom. The media, in their ordained role as defenders of orthodoxy, will attack you for it.

Gooses and Ganders

JC's right about Digby being right (about Olson Johnson being right).

If government money shouldn't be used to fund abortions (which it wasn't anyway) then it shouldn't be used to give guys stiffies either. After all, what do you think causes abortions? Flaccid members?

It's just common sense.

Smilin' Lou Hits the Road

Smilin' Lou Dobbs gave his final CNN broadcast tonight.

What's next for Ole Pumpkinhead? Based on his farewell comments

Over the past six months, it has become increasingly clear that strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us, and some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem-solving as well as to contribute positively to a better understanding of the great issues of our day and to continue to do so in the most honest and direct language possible'd almost think he was going to run for office. He now lives in Sussex County, New Jersey though, and their current Representative Scott Garrett seems heterodox enough to be safe from any wingnut purge attempts. There's no Senate seat up for grabs in 2010 either.

That pretty much leaves Fox. Maybe CNN can trade him for Shep Smith, so Shep can finally come out of the closet.

Shocking Developments

Hey, know that whole "the Ft. Hood shooter guy was a jihadist who tried to contact al Qaeda before going on his killing spree" thing?

Yep. It's total crap.

(via TNC)

Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose

Chris Dodd is apparently going to enjoy his final days as a Senator:

The bill would effect an overhaul of government far exceeding the reforms proposed by the Obama administration this summer or those under consideration by the House. It would bulldoze the existing regulatory establishment, stripping power from agencies including the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and erect in its place a triumvirate of new regulators with sweeping, unprecedented powers.

Administration officials and House leaders have described some parts of the plan as untenable. Industry groups, Republicans and regulators have attacked much larger portions as unnecessary or irresponsible. Dodd said Tuesday that the bill is a draft, intended to start conversation, but that he believes the proposed reforms are necessary.

"I could have tried to draft something that was, sort of, already a compromise of ideas here," Dodd said. "But I think you make a huge mistake by doing that. You're given very few moments in history to make this kind of a difference, and we're trying to do that."

I'm quite sure, if Dodd thought he had a better chance of getting re-elected in 2010, he'd be pulling his punches. But if this is going to be his last hurrah as a legislator, he's apparently determined to go down swinging.

Which officially makes him my new favorite Senator.

Anything that prompts statements like this:

"To some degree, it looks like they're just blowing up everything for the sake of change," said Ed Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association. "If this were to happen, the regulatory system would be in chaos for years. You have to look at the real-world impact of this."

...can only be a good thing. Real-world impact, Ed? You really want to go down the path of looking at the real-world impact of the regulatory system? How's your 401K doing, you thundering jackass?


The potential irony, of course, is that if Dodd legislates like it's 1999 and manages to get a new regulatory system through Congress, one that might have a chance of reining in the greedy asswipes who got us into this financial mess in the first place, he'll probably stand a better chance of keeping his job.

More Sane Conservatives

A climate scientist and evangelical pastor wife-and-husband team have written a book making the case for climate change in a way other evangelicals might understand.

"To get information on climate change, you have to go to the people who know the information. That's why we wrote this together as a climate scientist and a pastor," [co-author] Hayhoe said. "He asked the tough questions. He said you've got to talk about this and this and this, and these answers have to satisfy me."

Many of the questions were from the arguments of conservative celebrities.

"Glenn Beck is saying this, Laura Ingraham is saying that, Rush Limbaugh is saying this, and these people are well-respected in conservative communities, so where are these talk show hosts wrong and how can you show that they're wrong with data, not slick talk?" [co-author Farley] said.

It's always nice to see that there are still a handful of relatively sane conservatives out there.

Getcher Popcorn Ready

2010 is shaping up to be the most entertaining midterm elections ever.

On the one hand, you've got the teabaggers howling for moderate Pub blood, and looking to repeat their stirring Pyrrhic defeat in NY-23 nationwide. The Club For Growth is already hunting bigger game, throwing their weight behind Marco Rubio in his Senate battle with Charlie Crist in Florida. Expect plenty more primary throwdowns, and third party candidacies when a heretical RINO survives their primary, to follow.

On the other hand, the left is having conniptions over the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the House's health care reform bill, and there is a very strong likelihood that the Kossified grassroots will support some primary challengers of their own, or at the very least make life (and re-election) difficult for those that supported the amendment (or voted against health care reform, or both).

In other words, just the run-up to 2010 promises to see more than its share of electoral chaos.


The Most Brilliant Idea Ever

From a comment to Boo's post slamming Dennis Kucinich for voting against the House's health care reform bill...

We must also find some way to get public financing of all campaigns to elected office. Perhaps, we could begin with a dress code for all our congresspeople. Like Nascar drivers, they would have to wear the logos and colors of their chief sponsors. Let the whole world see who owns these champions of capitalism and free enterprise.

That is pure genius.

A Scalp For Nate

It appears that scourge of the statistical underworld, Mr. Silver, has taken down his first villain.

Crooked pollsters beware! Scamming samplers, tremble with fear! Even now, Mr. Silver may be creeping through your published results, getting ready to strike!

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of doctored numbers? Mr. Silver knows!

Watch Me Bowie-ize!

I am not terribly thrilled with this particular performance of Five Years, truth be told. I've done it better. I was much happier with the run at Young Americans I took on the night this next one was filmed, but you only get a brief taste of it (I'm at about the 4:30 mark):


Kristin Chenoweth will be carolling outside Holt Renfrew this evening at 6:30.

I'm supposed to be getting my internet hooked up at my new apartment sometime between 5 and 8 this evening.


Inviting the Inmates To Run the Asylum

Big Bad John announces that the NRCC will no longer spend money in a contested primary, in the wake of the NY-23 debacle. Which is essentially an open invitation for the Club For Growth (who spent over a million supporting Hoffman's campaign in NY-23) and whatever other teabagger organizations spring up to try and primary anyone to the left of Ayn Rand.

In other words, it's open season on moderate Republicans, at least in the House.

The following video may provide a close approximation of the comedy value that spectacle should provide:

The Long View

Sully sees progress where I saw a loss of momentum.

Beltway Blinders and Other Tuesday Fallout

The narrative, of course, is "Big win for Republicans!" But that would have been the narrative almost no matter what, since the media needs to pretend the right hasn't gone collectively crazy and must be taken seriously.

The reality, on the other hand, is that the wingnuts cost the Republicans NY-23, a district they've held (by various designations, due to gerrymandering) for over a century. Even then though, Hoffman mostly lost because he was a carpet-bagging putz (as were far too many of his supporters) not because voters in upstate New York have rejected the teabagging lifestyle. I think Nate's right. Trying to draw national inferences from Tuesday's results is a fool's errand, which is probably why so many pundits are doing it.

The Virginia sweep was no shock, as the Dems have pretty much emptied the VA bench with Warner, Webb et al getting bumped up to the federal scene.

Similarly, Corzine losing was only a surprise in that New Jersey had a bit of a history of cock-teasing the Pubs without actually putting out. I suspect the morning after won't be a pretty one for the Garden State.

Maine was a disappointment though, as was the fact that Washington passed its referendum so narrowly. It's becoming clear to me that the pro-SSM forces badly need to re-frame that debate.

UPDATE: Over at the VC, Orin draws four lessons from Tuesday, while Kopel suggests Tuesday's big winner was... the NRA?


NY-23 gets crazier, as Scozzafava has apparently thrown her endorsement behind... Dem Bill Owens, and not Conservative Party loon Doug Hoffman.

This is a pretty good sign that the entrenched Congressional wings of the Dems and Pubs, at least, think they have more in common with each other than with the teabaggers.

Hmm, which brings up a scenario I hadn't considered before. If the Republican Party splinters, and the saner wing of the GOP finds itself in a losing battle with the far-right monster it created... well, just how big is that Democratic big tent, anyway? Would conservative refugees like Frum and Snowe et al, be welcomed in as Bluer Dogs?

It Was Bound To Happen

I've added Richie's Wednesday show at the Danforth Fox and Fiddle back onto my schedule, because I can (barely) see the bar from the front window of my new apartment.

Which means I can officially say I can see a karaoke bar from my window now. Sadly inevitable, really.

I've barely begun to make the Danforth my new 'hood, but I am liking it so far. It's a very different vibe from my old St Clair West neighbourhood (which is still my favorite part of the city, because it's so perfectly Toronto in microcosm) but it's got its own charm. And I say this as someone who is not a fan of Greek food at all.

October Travesties

Wow. 43 different songs sung in the month of October:

Always Something There To Remind Me - Naked Eyes
And If Venice Is Sinking - Spirit of the West
Because the Night - Patti Smith
Big Bottom - Spinal Tap
Bizarre Love Triangle - New Order
Brass In Pocket - Pretenders
Breakdown - Tom Petty
Copperhead Road - Steve Earle
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground - White Stripes
Dream Weaver - Gary Wright
Ever Fallen In Love - Buzzcocks
Feels Like the First Time - Foreigner
Girl U Want - Devo
Groove Me - King Floyd
High School Confidential - Rough Trade
I Will Follow - U2
Jackson - Johnny and June Cash (duet w/Suzie)
Karma Police - Radiohead
Keep Your Hands To Yourself - Georgia Satellites
Message In a Bottle - Police
Mirror in the Bathroom - English Beat
New Rose - Damned
Night Moves - Bob Seger
Ole Black & Blue Eyes - Fratellis
One Way Or Another - Blondie
Operator - Jim Croce
Rebellion (Lies) - Arcade Fire
Roll With It - Oasis
Ruby Tuesday - Rolling Stones
Say It Ain't So - Weezer
See You Again - Miley Cyrus
Senses Working Overtime - XTC
Starlight - Muse
Street Spirit - Radiohead
Sunny Afternoon - Kinks
The Bends - Radiohead
Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen
Veronica - Elvis Costello
Virginia Plain - Roxy Music
We Can Work It Out - Beatles
You Spin Me Round - Dead Or Alive
You're My Best Friend - Queen
Young Americans - David Bowie

Apri... Err, Hallowe'en Fools?

Holy crap.

Scozzafava has dropped out of the NY-23 race, leaving the field to the Dem and the teabagger.

The GUP (Grand Undead Party) apparently can't field a viable candidate for a seat they've held for aeons...

Leave Comedy To the Rabbits

So last night CJ linked to this Onion News Network piece, which I thought was the awesomest bit of basketball-related funny I'd ever seen.

Then Conor linked to this:

The moral of the story: No matter how good the professionals are at comedy, they eventually get trumped by someone with a tragic lack of self-awareness.

Endgame in Honduras

Al has the blow-by-blow. Not much to say until the deal gets ratified and the details become public, but I am interested to see whether Zelaya's proposed Constitutional Reform Assembly actually happens or not.

Given that Honduras' Constitution was apparently put together during a drunken, all-night Nomic session, it probably should happen. But should doesn't mean will.


Boo is on to something. If Lieberman won't side with the Dems on their signature issue because of his "principals" that's fine, but there's absolutely no reason for them to let him keep his chair assignments in the Senate if he does.

Please Let Arcade Fire Cover Moribund the Burgermeister

While a Gabriel covers album sounds like a good idea, the hint that these are "swap songs" and that the covered artists will, in turn, do Gabriel covers is an even better one.

Radiohead doing Biko, perhaps? Regina Spektor tackling Big Time? Bowie doing... hell, whatever he wants.

Cover albums are always a risky proposition, but this one has a shot at being Stay Awake-level awesome.

Random Thoughts From a Random Thursday

- in the future karaoke songbooks will have interactive, video game-like features, so that certain artists can only be unlocked once you'd proven you're ready for them. And by 'certain artists', I mean Queen.

- got talked into a dangerous Artist/Title combo play using my karaoke deck last night at Tequila. The result (Artist G, Song Title K) actually produced three possible outcomes: Kissing a Fool by George Michael, Keep Your Hands To Yourself by the Georgia Satellites and Knockin' On Heaven's Door by GNR. (Plus, had I known it at all, Kicking and Screaming by Garth Brooks.) You can see on the left which one I went with.

Jason's nights (or Richie's, since they use the same book) and Steve-O's are about the only places I'd dare try that though. Other books just aren't deep enough for those kind of shenanigans.

- bumped into Patrick on my way out of Tequila. He's re-launching his bar. Sweet! Given that Tequila is on Adelaide, half a block from Croc Rock, that should be enough info for some people to guess which bar it is I'm talking about.

-also bumped into a certain old friend/fling/whatever the hell that was at Tequila. (It was an eventful random Thursday.) She was her usual self at karaoke, which is to say drunk and... hmm, I was going to say flirty, but that's not exactly the right word. The more accurate term would be unkind, so I won't say it.

The point is, she's exactly the sort of woman I would have fallen for hard once upon a time (she's rather ridiculously hot, and sends out that 'help I need rescuing' vibe), but as of last night I think I can safely say those days are behind me.

It also bodes well for the new thing that's started up in the last week or so...

What, you thought I wasn't posting much because of work, getting ready to move and the fact that my current pad more closely resembles a DMZ? Pshaw.

Conservatives For Government Spending!

Bruce Bartlett continues to go rogue (for realz, not in the Palin sense):

According to the Congressional Budget Office's January 2009 estimate for fiscal year 2009, outlays were projected to be $3,543 billion and revenues were projected to be $2,357 billion, leaving a deficit of $1,186 billion. Keep in mind that these estimates were made before Obama took office, based on existing law and policy, and did not take into account any actions that Obama might implement.

Therefore, unless one thinks that McCain would have somehow or other raised taxes and cut spending (with a Democratic Congress), rather than enacting a stimulus of his own, then a deficit of $1.2 trillion was baked in the cake the day Obama took office. Any suggestion that McCain would have brought in a lower deficit is simply fanciful.

Now let's fast forward to the end of fiscal year 2009, which ended on September 30. According to CBO, it ended with spending at $3,515 billion and revenues of $2,106 billion for a deficit of $1,409 billion.

To recap, the deficit came in $223 billion higher than projected, but spending was $28 billion and revenues were $251 billion less than expected. Thus we can conclude that more than 100 percent of the increase in the deficit since January is accounted for by lower revenues. Not one penny is due to higher spending.

It should be further noted that revenues are lower to a large extent because of tax cuts included in the February stimulus. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, these tax cuts reduced revenues in FY2009 by $98 billion over what would otherwise have been the case. This is important because the Republican position has consistently been that tax cuts and only tax cuts are an appropriate response to the economic crisis.

If God were really a teabagger, Bartlett would be smited for such apostasy.

It'll Be a Hell of a Wake

AG highlights the carnage in the recent audit of newspaper circulation. The short version: we all knew the industry was dying, but the end would appear to be closer than even the pessimists anticipated.

The Senile Old Lady is now under a million readers a day. Think about that for a minute.

To me the answer seems a bit obvious: if newspapers can't turn a profit any more, it's time for communities to start looking for not-for-profit sources of news. But that's easier to glibly say than to put into practice.

On the other hand, when the White House correspondents for major networks apparently can't tell news from nonsense, I start wondering if the newspapers can't take the rest of the journo-industrial complex with them when they finally die off.

Inmates Running the Asylum?

Foxes in the hen house? I'm trying to find the most appropriate analogy for this. VC's Anderson nails it:

Put another way, I don’t see a justification for creating a conglomerate firm — one which combines a government-guaranteed banking firm with a proprietary risk taking firm — unless the idea is that the higher risk trading profits will benefit the lower risk part of the firm, while the lower risk part of the firm will anchor the higher risk trading ... how? What value does the lower risk part contribute — oh, I remember, a government guarantee. Why in principle couldn’t investors get the true economic value of each by buying shares of each? Isn’t the only real point of bundling these two firms together in a single holding company in order to tap the government guarantee for the entity as a conglomerate, implicitly in ordinary times and explicitly when the the tail-risk event occurs? If someone wants to explain to me what the additional value-added of creating this conglomerate is apart from the public subsidy, I am happy to be persuaded, but at this moment I can’t see what it is.

"Treasury" is essentially the lobbying arm of Wall Street at this point. I can't even begin to imagine why someone would take a proposal like this one seriously, other than as a blueprint for the absolute last thing that should be done.

On the Bright Side, He Had No Credibility To Lose

Limbaugh swallows an even clumsier hoax than the Bush National Guard stuff.

Clearly, just like Moby Dickhead, Dan Rather's response during that nonsense should have been to acknowledge the hoax as soon as he found out about it, but then say "Well, we all know this is exactly what Bush's National Guard stint was really like, even if these particular documents are forgeries, so it doesn't really matter." Then his job would have been safe from wingnut fury, right?


Again you have made me unleash my dogs of war

It's looking as though, at long last, there might be a fourth Mad Max movie.

The big kerfuffle at the moment is over the casting, and whether Mel Gibson will return. Count me in the 'who cares?' camp. The series is, and always has been, George Miller's baby, and I still have yet to see a bad George Miller movie.

Having Miller head back out to the wasteland, with perhaps a chip on his shoulder (given how long he's been trying to get this thing off the ground, when it should have been a no-brainer for a studio to finance) is just insanely great news. If Mel's along for the ride too, that's just the cherry on top of the geekgasm sundae.

My eventual goal, once I have a giant Wall O' DVDs, is to buy some 1:18 die-cast car models from various movies to slot in next to the appropriate DVD cases. Currently the #1 purchase, once I'm ready to go on the Wall, will be a white 1970 Vanishing Point Challenger R/T (or, for you young philistines, that white muscle car from Tarantino's Death Proof the girls play Ship's Mast with). #2 would be a Road Warrior Interceptor.

If Fury Road actually goes into production, I may just reverse those two on the priority list.

Why WTWTA Is The Bestest Movie Ever

I've now seen it twice, and I think I'm prepared to name it my favourite movie of all time.

Here's the thing though: it's a kid's movie in the same sense that Silence of the Lambs is a serial killer movie. The movie is about childhood; it's not for children. Sure, some kids will get it (I know I probably would have, had it come out in about 1981 or so) but some kids will run screaming from it, and smaller ones will probably just fall asleep.

As a movie about what it's like to be a kid, though, it's... well, perfect. I was Max. I lived inside my own imagination half the time, had divorced parents, and could be downright uncontrollable. I joked before the film came out that I was going to see my childhood on screen. It turned out not to be a joke; take off that wolf costume and Max is me.

And, I suspect, Spike Jonze too.

There's not a frame of that film I would change. Sure, the effects are magnificent. Sure, the dialogue is genius (KW's "They like it when I do that" is going to be my new catch-phrase for when I do something totally obnoxious.) Sure, Karen O's soundtrack is brilliant.

But what makes the film perfect is how relentlessly honest it is about what it's like to be a kid. It does what no other movie has ever done, and Jonze does what no other film maker, to the best of my knowledge, had even attempted to do before.

When Where the Wild Things Are inevitably fails to even get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, the Academy Awards will be well and truly dead to me forever. I've long since given up on them being meaningful, but at that point they will simply cease to be part of my universe.

Let the Wild Rumpus Start

Technically, I have to wait 10 hours or so to begin rumpusing. But who am I kidding? I'm already kinda silly and giddy. Good thing I work in a toy store... if I were a mortician or something I'd need to take a sick day.


Every time I consider dropping the Volokh Conspiracy from my Legion of the Damned because of some asinine, knee-jerk anti-Obama screed by one of his co-posters, the good perfesser steps up and posts something interesting about the law.

Given all the various shades of religious persecution throughout history, it always amazes me when someone argues for more religion in government, and that they don't see the danger of eroding that wall separating the two.

Color Me Unsurprised

Any decent poker player learns quickly to trust their instincts, even if logic can't explain a particular move. In fact that's one of the big things I still need to work on in my game, is heeding my first instinct more. I still try to deduce things I should (and do) already know the answer to. (Via Sully).

An Idle Thought

We know by now that Obama is a pretty shrewd cat, right? He proved that in the way he ran his campaigns for Dem nominee and President.

And the CW says that the Dems will be at an enthusiasm disadvantage during the 2010 midterms, and that the Pubs might take back some seats as a result, right?

So what if Obama is deliberately dragging his heels on LGBT equality so he can pull a rabbit out of his hat next summer on DADT and/or DOMA in order to fire up a big part of his base just in time for those '10 midterms?

I mean, what has he got to lose? The Pub base is going to be fired up anyway. They're already fired up to the point of blowing out their boilers. Is there some wingnut out there thinking "I can live with all this Marxism, but if that Kenyan bastard lets those fags get married I'm gonna get right out there and vote those Dems out of office!"?

Given the way health care reform has played out, nothing will get passed until late 2009/early 2010. Assuming there's a decent form of public option in it, that squares away one big chunk of the liberal base. Serious movement on the gay equality front a few months later squares away another big chunk, and gives Obama the troops on the ground to counter whatever wave of right-wing fury the Pubs can generate.

If that theory's correct, then the logical third plank of a 2010 'excite the Dem base' strategy would be movement towards immigration reform, with some version of amnesty built into it.

Politicians vs Activists

Some people -- and I'm thinking here specifically of JC, as well as some of Sully's readers -- don't seem to get the distinction between the two.

Of course Obama, as a rather smart politician, is going to make a list of priorities which will be motivated by concerns and calculations beyond simply Doing What Is Right. That's the job he was elected to do.

That's not the job of activists, which is what Sully is being on this particular issue. It is the job of activists to ignore that kind of political calculus and focus exclusively on Doing What (they feel) Is Right.

And naturally, those two agendas are going to be at cross purposes until such time as public will causes them to intersect. Martin Luther King didn't wake up one day, give the I Have A Dream speech, and poof! the Civil Rights Act was passed. There was a long history of marches and demonstrations and repression and violence and murder that led up to it.

I believe, looking at the similarly long history of the battle for LGBT equality, that we are in the endgame. Within a handful of years the dam will burst, DADT and DOMA and the rest will be tossed aside, and love and justice will triumph over hate.

That doesn't mean I'd expect those on the front lines of that battle to take their foot off the gas, now that the finish line is in sight.

Torturing Innocents

We did it. USA! USA!

Until now, this scenario has only been a fear. Now we know it was a reality. An astonishing, and largely ignored, judicial ruling issued on September 17 in the case of one Fouad al-Rabiah told us that the US government knowingly tortured an innocent man to procure a false confession.

We know that an American interrogator, operating under the authority of the US government, said the following words to a detainee: “There is nothing against you. But there is no innocent person here. So, you should confess to something so you can be charged and sentenced and serve your sentence and then go back to your family and country, because you will not leave this place innocent.”

That’s from page 41 of the court memorandum and order, releasing al-Rabiah. Al-Rabiah was captured in Pakistan in December 2001. He had an unlikely history for a top Al-Qaeda commander and strategist. He had spent 20 years at a desk job for Kuwait Airways. As the journalist Andy Worthington has painstakingly reported — and the court reiterated — he was also a humanitarian volunteer for Muslim refugees. Yet informants had described him as an Al-Qaeda supporter and confidant of Osama Bin Laden, and before he knew what was happening to him, he was whisked away to Guantanamo.

The informants’ accounts were riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions. In her ruling, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly noted that “the only consistency with respect to [these] allegations is that they repeatedly change over time”. The one incriminating statement was given by another inmate after he had been subjected to sleep deprivation and coercion. So the only option left to prove that al-Rabiah had not been captured by mistake was his own confession.

The interrogators’ notes, forced into the open by the court, gave the game away. In the judge’s words, although “al-Rabiah’s interrogators ultimately extracted confessions from him”, they “never believed his confessions, based on the comments they included in their interrogation reports”. In fact, “the evidence in the record during this period consists mainly of an assessment made by an intelligence analyst that alRabiah should not have been detained”.

That CIA analyst, moreover, had told the justice department this was his judgment. Rather than withdraw the prosecution, however, the decision was made to get al-Rabiah to confess. He didn’t and wouldn’t. So he was subject to sleep deprivation and other unspecified “interrogation techniques” that led him to suffer “from serious depression, losing weight in a substantial way, and very stressed because of the constant moves, deprived of sleep and worried about the consequences for his children”.

Whatever the techniques applied to him, the outcome was a breakthrough for the US government. It resulted, in the judge’s words, in al-Rabiah’s “confession that he met with Osama Bin Laden, continued with his confession that he undertook a leadership role in Tora Bora, and repeated itself ... with respect to ‘evidence’ that the government has not even attempted to rely on as reliable or credible”.

The ruling also reveals that during the coercion, al-Rabiah began to make contradictory confessions; and when he tried to retract them, he was punished: “As a result, al-Rabiah’s interrogators began using abusive techniques that violated the Army Field Manual and the 1949 Geneva Conventions ... The first of these techniques included threats of rendition to places where al-Rabiah would either be tortured and/or would never be found.”

The only thing I would find remotely satisfying as a form of justice here would be for Dick Cheney to be prosecuted, convicted, and a special punishment added to the books whereby he would be stripped of his citizenship and exiled from the country. He is not fit to be an American.

Since that will never happen, I'll make do with the prosecutions of everyone responsible for these horrors, top to bottom.

Best Comment About Obama's Nobel

And it comes, surprisingly enough, from the State Department:

Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum — when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes.

When He's Right, He's Right

Sully takes out a two-by-four and whacks Obama straight between the eyes on his HRC speech tonight:

But the sad truth is: he is refusing to take any responsibility for his clear refusal to fulfill clear campaign pledges on the core matter of civil rights and has given no substantive, verifiable pledges or deadlines by which he can be held accountable. What that means, I'm afraid, is that this speech was highfalutin bullshit. There were no meaningful commitments within a time certain, not even a commitment to fulfilling them in his first term; just meaningless, feel-good commitments that we have no way of holding him to. Once the dust settles, ask yourself. What did he promise to achieve in the next year? Or two years? Or four years? The answer is: nothing.

And you know what? Sully's right to do so.

Obama made campaign promises, and has done basically nothing to meet them. This has clearly been a political decision, and Obama likely figures he has enough fights on his hands without opening up another front to get DADT or DOMA scrapped. But it means that if the GLBT community wants to see movement on those issues, they're going to have to do something to force the president's hand.

Which of course brings me back to my own personal issue, the lack of any attempt to undo the horrific damage done by Cheney et al when they turned the US into a torture state. I can't help but see the parallels between that and this. It's really starting to seem that someone, somewhere, is going to have to force the government's hand to get them to mount a real investigation and real prosecutions.

The question is who, and when, and what it will take. And whether I personally have the courage to participate in that effort.

Note To Budding Art Critics

If you don't know jack shit and about art and art history, maybe you shouldn't engage in art criticism beyond saying "I likes it" or "I don't likes it".

Testing Stereotypes

Following up on the report that women have been disproportionately targeted by the US military's DADT policy, I have a question:

Is this happening because really butch lesbians are more likely to sign up for military service than effeminate gay men? Is there something in the culture of the military that makes it more likely for women to be outed than men?

Or are the numbers simply too small to draw any statistical conclusions?

I'm a Great Big Shining Star

I knew a quote from my review was on the back of the Ichi the Killer DVD case, but I just noticed today that there's a quote from my review of Kitano's Dolls on the back of its DVD case too.

Of course neither of the pull quotes are attributed to 'Anton Sirius', just to Ain't It Cool News... ah well.

Explanation Please

Why aren't people going to jail for this?

In many ways, what private equity firms did at Simmons, and scores of other companies like it, mimicked the subprime mortgage boom. Fueled by easy money, not only from banks but also endowments and pension funds, buyout kings like THL upended the old order on Wall Street. It was, they said, the Golden Age of private equity — nothing less than a new era of capitalism.

These private investors were able to buy companies like Simmons with borrowed money and put down relatively little of their own cash. Then, not long after, they often borrowed even more money, using the company’s assets as collateral — just like home buyers who took out home equity loans on top of their first mortgages. For the financiers, the rewards were enormous.

Twice after buying Simmons, THL borrowed more. It used $375 million of that money to pay itself a dividend, thus recouping all of the cash it put down, and then some.

A result: THL was guaranteed a profit regardless of how Simmons performed. It did not matter that the company was left owing far more than it was worth, just as many people profited from the mortgage business while many homeowners found themselves underwater.

You know how Iran keeps simmering, and how Ahmadi and Khameini are essentially living on borrowed time? That eventually things will erupt and a new social/political order will be born out of the chaos, just as it was in 1979?

The mullahs on Wall Street are going to be looking east towards Tehran with envy when that pot finally boils over.

JC doesn't have it quite right
. They aren't thieves, they are parasites. Leeches. And they are begging for a match.

Sully Catches Teh Stoopid

You know the spiel: the Olympic push was a huge mistake, presidency in jeopardy, misplaced priorities blah blah blah.

Did Prime Minister Hatoyama look like the "mayor of Tokyo" for lobbying on behalf of their bid? Does Sully think Obama is the only elected leader with things on his plate, that Lula and Zapatero had nothing better to do with their time than head to Denmark?

The "dreadful judgment" Sully speaks of is on the part of anyone who thinks this is a big deal. It's not like Obama left disarmament talks with Iran to go to Copenhagen.

Get a grip. Sheesh.

Doing Their Jobs For Once

I have little respect for CNN these days, but the Clinton/Gates round table interview running right now with Amandpour moderating has been damn good. Very little beltway McChrystal gossipy bullshit, and some good, tough questions on foreign policy.

More of this please, and less of Sanchez's "Look at me being hip and lazy!" hour-long Twitter ads.

Ahmadinejad Is a Rank Amateur

Former UN deputy special representative to Afghanistan Peter Galbraith goes into excruciating detail about Karzai's blatant election fraud:

In July, I learned that at least 1,500 polling centers (out of 7,000) were to be located in places so insecure that no one from the IEC, the Afghan National Army or the Afghan National Police had ever visited them. Clearly, these polling centers would not open on Election Day. At a minimum, their existence on the books would create large-scale confusion, but I was more concerned about the risk of fraud.

Local commission staff members were hardly experienced election professionals; in many instances they were simply agents of the local power brokers, usually aligned with Karzai. If no independent observers or candidate representatives, let alone voters, could even visit the listed location of a polling center, these IEC staffers could easily stuff ballot boxes without ever taking them to the assigned location. Or they could simply report results without any votes being in the ballot boxes.

Along with ambassadors from the United States and key allies, I met with the Afghan ministers of defense and the interior as well as the commission's chief election officer. We urged them either to produce a credible plan to secure these polling centers (which the head of the Afghan army had told me was impossible) or to close them down. Not surprisingly, the ministers -- who served a president benefiting from the fraud -- complained that I had even raised the matter. [Diplomat Kai] Eide ordered me not to discuss the ghost polling centers any further. On Election Day, these sites produced hundreds of thousands of phony Karzai votes.

The main differences between the Afghan election fraud and the Iranian election fraud is that the Afghan fraud was far more blatant, and the Iranian people decided to do something about their rights being perverted.

Navigating the HMS Public Option

Boo pats himself on the back a little for correctly predicting the Dems' congressional strategy for getting health care reform with a public option passed into law:

This is exactly the tack I expected. The public option was negotiable until the exact moment that Finance completed its mark-up. Then it was not negotiable. That was the strategy, my friends.

Now, this isn't the end of the story, by any means. There is difference between a public option and a robust public option. A robust public option will have its reimbursement rates tied to Medicare's reimbursement rates. That's what we want. That's what the Progressive Caucus in the House is insisting be in the bill. A worrying sign is that as Reid tacks to the left, Pelosi may be tacking to the right. The middle may be reached by settling on a non-robust public option.

We shall see. But, based on Reid's abrupt turnabout, I feel confident that I had gamed out this strategy correctly. The Senate looks like it will have some form of public option in the base bill, even after signaling for months that that was something they were willing to trade away.

I'd love to see a robust public option pass the House and then prevail in the Conference Committee. That is still a rough road, and Pelosi is flirting with compromise at precisely the wrong time. But the plan appears to be going according to plan, just as I envisioned it. If the House Progressives really hold firm, this bill may not pass through the Senate after the Conference Report. If that happens, we could still go to budget reconciliation, but the blame for that would be placed on progressives, making it a politically treacherous path. This thing isn't won, but it is on track.

It's a little over a year until the 2010 midterms. While the demographic trends in midterms favor the Pubs (skewing towards older, pale-skinned voters) and the economic climate is still mixed, a win for the Dems on health care reform should help cushion whatever blow their lead in the House might receive based on the other two factors. And while they've done a fair job minimizing the overt craziness lately, don't underestimate the Pubs' ability to alienate vast swaths of the American electorate.

* - I was going to title this post 'Navigating the USS Public Option', but HMS seemed more appropriate, all things considered.

Nuit Blanche 2010

Did a bit of a wander last night for Nuit Blanche. Didn't see anything mind-blowing, but I didn't see much that was terrible either. The pieces continue to be more about spectacle than actual art though.

With that in mind, I've already got ideas for two works next year:

- some sort of 'reverse karaoke' installation where the song chooses the singer instead of the other way around. Have a full karaoke set-up (preferably indoors) with a selection of popular songs in different genres (recent fluff, jazz standards etc.) Have the songs play in a random order, with some sort of clever signage encouraging anyone who knows the song to jump up and grab the mic. In artspeak, the installation would explore the relationships between performer, audience and authority, while also commenting on the enduring nature of what was intended to be a ephemeral product of consumer culture.

- an installation that treats native Torontonians like foreigners. Have a large group of people stand on a street corner (preferably in a high foot traffic area in the downtown core), all of whom have been instructed to speak in a made-up language (you'd need to get a lot of experienced improv performers for this.) Have them attempt to interact with any English speakers who walk into their midst as though they expected the English speaker to understand what they are saying, and to get agitated when the English speakers don't. In artspeak, the piece would interrogate the role of language in defining personal and tribal identity.


So this is what "they" mean when they talk about self-hating Jews...


Dollhouse's ratings continue to tank. 2.1 million viewers in the 18-49 demo? Yeesh.

It almost doesn't matter though. The show's second season figured to be a network test case for the concept of broadcasting a show based on projected future DVD sales rather than present ratings anyway. Fox has treated their Friday night lineup as a spec fic dumping ground ever since they struck gold with the X-Files, so it makes sense that they would finally go all the way with the idea and use Fridays as a way to try and create profitable franchises instead of just hit shows.

God Bless TCM

Their showing of Rear Window made me realize just how long Hitchcock's cheeky masterpiece has been the reigning champ of first-person perspective films... and how much of an achievement it was for Gaspar Noe to dethrone Hitch with Enter The Void.

I will finish that review soon, and that will hopefully open the floodgate for all the other reviews from TIFF 2009 I have yet to write. Enter The Void has to be the next review I write, for reasons that will become clear when you read it.

This Day in Anti-American Socialist History

It's no May 1st, but a lot of stuff happened on October 1st to make the reddest of commies happy:

- in 1867, Karl Marx's Das Capital is published

- in 1949, Mao stood in Tian'anmen Square and willed the People's Republic of China into existence

- and in 1974, the trial of Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, Mardian and Parkinson (Nixon aides charged with conspiring to hinder the Watergate investigation) began.

Undoubtedly Obama will do something today that will eventually be added to that list. Maybe he just started secret talks with Iran to sell out Israel or something.

September's Travesties

Despite the film fest I still managed to squeeze in 30 songs this month... not bad.

A Little Respect - Erasure
Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
Can't Help Falling In Love - Elvis Presley
Common People - Pulp
Cult of Personality - Living Color
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Animals
Fox On the Run - Sweet
Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon - Neil Diamond
Head Like a Hole - Nine Inch Nails
Heartbreaker - Pat Benatar
High School Confidential - Rough Trade
Hurdy Gurdy Man - Donovan
Mac the Knife - Bobby Darin
Mr. Bojangles - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
One - U2
Psycho Killer - Talking Heads
Raspberry Beret - Prince
Roadhouse Blues - Doors
Solisbury Hill (live "Little Birdie" version) - Peter Gabriel
Space Oddity - David Bowie
This Diamond Ring - Gary Lewis & the Playboys
Tush - ZZ Top
Veronica - Elvis Costello
Wanted Dead or Alive - Bon Jovi
Wear Your Love Like Heaven - Donovan
Weird Science - Oingo Boingo
Whistle For the Choir - Fratellis
With a Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away - Beatles


My Crohn's has been kicking my ass for a few days now. Thank you roommate stress!

I'm predicting things will start to settle down in my nether regions sometime around Thursday. Why yes, that does happen to be the first of the month.

How To Start a Conspiracy Theory

Al continues to dig into the mystery surrounding the fact that the tear gas canisters used around the Brazilian embassy in Honduras this week were stamped as property of the Peruvian National Police.

The explanation out of Lima is that the tear gas had been ordered from Combined Systems Inc, but the order has been canceled, so Combined Systems must have shipped the tear gas they never delivered to Peru to Honduras instead, without changing the markings on the canisters.

Combined Systems Inc. happens to be part of the Carlyle Group, the private equity firm Michael Moore took a run at in Fahrenheit 9/11.

Presumably this means Micheletti is the pawn of the Bush family mob, while Zelaya is part of the Obama/Chavez/Castro wing of the Communist International. And down the rabbit hole we go!

We Love You So

20 days until magic happens.

Normally, with movies like this, I have a great deal of dread that it will actually suck, my childhood will be raped etc etc etc.

I have no dread about Where the Wild Things Are. I am absolutely confident that magic will happen in three weeks.

Serenely confident, even.

Misanthropy Makes Me Laugh

So Wednesday night I'm up in my beloved old St Clair West 'hood hanging out at the new apartment of one of my bestest of friends (which also happens to be my old apartment).

It being a nice night and all, I decide to walk home. Down Bathurst, through the Annex, trundling along Bloor past the Fox and Fiddle where Pete Rock used to host karaoke... oh, and hello, they still have karaoke.

Oh, and hello, it's hosted by Morgan, one of Pete's regulars at his weekend gig down the street from me. And it's her first night as host, so random moral support is more than welcome. Crap. So much for me getting home at a decent hour.

Thing is though, it turns out Morgan is no longer a Pete Rock regular. When he found out she'd taken the gig at the St. George Fox (a place that had fired him months ago so they could hire cheaper hosts) he banned her from his show.


One of the cool things about karaoke in this city is the community that supports it. Some people are loyal to specific hosts, some (like me) are whores and get around. Some hosts see other hosts as colleagues (Jason, Richie, Steve-O, Carson) and some, uhh, don't.

Actually "some" is a bit of an exaggeration. Pete's pretty much the only one I know.

Silly boy.

Damn You, Trailer People

Quit making me cry.

And IMAX? C'mon now, that's just cruel. I'm gonna spend more on Kleenex than I will on the ticket.

What You'll Miss Tonight

Jason Rolland's got a new Monday night, at the Last Toby's, which I feel compelled to check out.

Toby's used to be a Toronto institution, a fairly solid burger joint chain (sit down, not take-out) with a dog for a mascot and a number of downtown locations. I still remember the day I went in to the Yonge & Bloor location and discovered to my horror that they'd changed their fries. It was all downhill from there, to the point that the Last Toby's (College, just east of Bathurst) would be unrecognizable to a time traveling Torontonian dropped into 2009 from 1992.

Still, I have enough trouble turning down karaoke as it is. Karaoke + nostalgia potential is pretty much a slam dunk to get me out.

Zelaya Goes Home

Al has a great blow-by-blow of today's events in Honduras. Especially noteworthy is how disorganized and ineffectual Micheletti's response has been. For instance:

5:21 p.m.: Coup "president" Micheletti just spoke on a "cadena nacional" (in which all TV, radio and cable stations are required to broadcast his message). He confirmed that Zelaya is in the country, insisted that the June 28 coup was "legal," said Zelaya will have to face charges against him, insisted that the country is in complete calm (if so, then why the military curfew?), attacked the government of Brazil for protecting Zelaya in its Embassy, and told everyone that the National Police and the National Army are behind him. He ended with shouts of "Viva Honduras" to a small group of coup functionaries. He sounds frightened, but is digging in his heels.

Upon the termination of his broadcast, a woman on Radio Globo mocked him mercilessly, saying "no one owes obedience to an order by a de facto regime," and noted that the curfew was called just ten minutes before it took effect, leaving millions of Hondurans to have to get home from work but without enough time to do it. "Nobody is obeying the order," she said. "Nor should they."

It's just a matter of time before Zelaya regains power. And hopefully with as small a body count as possible, although Micheletti is just stupid and desperate enough to do something dangerous as he feels control slipping through his fingers.

Melting Away in the Summer Heat

Last week, when I was busy with the film fest and not paying a whole lot of attention to the kerfuffle over exactly how many teabaggers showed up in Washington on the 12th, I mocked the notion that millions of people had shown up, but was willing to concede that the number had been in the hundreds of thousands.

CJ says I'm gullible:

I also have quite a bit of experience with very large crowds — as a touring musician with Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke and George Duke, I played in front of many very large audiences. The largest was probably the first “Rock in Rio” festival (we shared the stage with Queen, Rod Stewart, and others), which had about 250,000 to 300,000 attendees. From all the pictures and video I saw, the tea party was nowhere near the size of that crowd.

What You Missed Last Night

(I've decided to post more about my karaoke misadventures, in between political babble and belated film reviews. You've been warned...)

Fun times at the Rivoli last night, despite the lack of a huge turnout. I got roundly scolded by Rhett for ignoring him and MAR at the Bad Lieutenant screening at the Elgin, despite the fact that I said hello to Todd sitting in the row in front of them. Ulp.

I also pulled off the rare Elvis double (Presley and Costello), while random cutie from Vancouver showed up and blew everyone away with a repertoire ranging from Aerosmith to Alicia Keys. Allie has an awesomely raspy, very slightly Billie Holiday-ish quality to her voice that allows her to get away with stuff mere mortals shouldn't be able to get away. She says she's coming back to Toronto in a few weeks. She better!

The newly repatriated Sass was a no-show however. Quelle dommage.

TIFF Top 10

This was in many ways an odd festival. 2009 was well above average in terms of quality - there were only two films I saw over the 10 days I would classify as 'bad', with everything else being at least OK or better - but heading into the final day nothing had really blown me away. There were no little hidden gems I stumbled into at random, no films that shook my view of what a movie could be.

None, that is, until my second-last film of the festival, and the two-and-a-half-hour celluloid trip that is Enter the Void. Gaspar Noe could justifiably retire from directing, since there's no conceivable way he could possibly top it. I mean, where do you go after you've deconstructed and rebuilt cinema from the ground up?

Anyway, here's my top 10:

1 - Enter the Void
2 - A Serious Man
3 - Whip It
4 - Micmacs
5 - Daybreakers
6 - Antichrist
7 - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
8 - Hipsters
9 - Waking Sleeping Beauty
10 - An Education

Yes, I still have to finish my reviews on half of those. Sigh.

Almost There

Lane Kiffin doesn't yet have the Vols at the point where they can really compete with the likes of Florida, but so far through the first half they're keeping it close against the Gators in Gainsville. The running game looks good and the whole team is playing a much tougher and more physical game than they have the last few years under Fulmer. Once they have some experience in Kiffin's system, look out.

I'm predicting an upset of Mississippi on the road in November.

More Fools

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), lacking any sense of irony or maybe even working brain cells, wants an investigation into the... well, I'll let the WSJ explain:

Rep. Kevin Brady asked for an explanation of why the government-run subway system didn’t, in his view, adequately prepare for this past weekend’s rally to protest government spending and government services.


The Texas Republican on Wednesday released a letter he sent to Washington’s Metro system complaining that the taxpayer-funded subway system was unable to properly transport protesters to the rally to protest government spending and expansion.

“These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration,” Brady wrote. “These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit for them.”

A spokesman for Brady says that “there weren’t enough cars and there weren’t enough trains.” Brady tweeted as much from the Saturday march. “METRO did not prepare for Tea Party March! More stories. People couldn’t get on, missed start of march. I will demand answers from Metro,” he wrote on Twitter.

H/t to JC for that much. But wait, it gets better, Back in July HR3288, a Transportation and HUD appropriations bill, came up for a vote. It included $150 million for emergency maintenance funding for the DC Metro.

Brady voted against it

The only appropriate response to people like this is open, mocking laughter.


Only 18% of conservative New Jerseyites have figured out that Obama is actually the Anti-Christ (scroll down to page eight in the crosstabs).

What's it going to take for the rest of them to realize the end times are upon us? A female African-American president?

Hee Hee!

Linda McMahon has joined the throng competing in the Connecticut Republican primary for the chance to unseat Chris Dodd.

Easy wrestling jokes aside, I think Jesse Ventura already demonstrated that you underestimate someone transitioning from the WWE to politics at your own peril. Ventura cut way better promos than Linda ever did, of course, but he also didn't have a sizable personal fortune with which to finance his campaign.

If she proves to be an actual fiscal conservative and not a wingnut, I'd say she could even be the favorite to win the nom.


I'm on day seven of the film festival, and I'm only eight reviews behind (A Serious Man, Under the Mountain, Collapse, Whip It, The Art of the Steal, Vengeance, The Loved Ones, and Waking Sleeping Beauty).

This whole "getting sleep" thing might actually work out.

Kanye, meet Sister Souljah

Now if only an uppity black celeb can do something stupid every week through Christmas for Obama to comment on, maybe we can ratchet down the tension a little, and eventually all come together in the understanding that Kanye West is indeed a jackass.

Hey, That Was Fast

Latest review package is up here.

Merrick trimmed out my intro though. Pity. I'll put it up here in the interests of posterity:

I was gonna say something… crap, what was it… oh yeah! Bumped into an old friend I’d never actually met in person before a couple of nights ago while on the way with Copernicus to the Whip It afterparty: none other than the former Old Man Moriarty. He seems to be doing well in his new gig.

Whip It is tremendous, by the way. It’s at the top of the pile for review, but my teaser would be this: when Drew (no, the other, cuter Drew, not Moriarty) was introducing her cast while decked out in a fantastic yellow spiderwebby Alexander McQueen creation, she mentioned as part of her intro for Daniel Stern that Breaking Away was one of her favorite movies as a kid.

Well, Whip It is Breaking Away good.

Also, don’t be afraid to add me on Facebook if you use still use it. I’m in the Toronto network, and I won’t spam you with status updates, promise. That’s what Twitter is for.

TIFF Review: Dogtooth

Dogtooth (2009, directed by Giorgos Lanthimos)

Such a great premise, wasted. Ah well.

A couple, living in an estate/compound completely cut off from the outside world, have raised their three children to near adulthood in complete isolation. They've taught them the wrong words for things (if the movie becomes a hit back in its native Greece I fully expect the phrase "Lick my keyboard" to become big) and constructed an elaborate mythology about the outside world, the world father bravely heads out into every morning to go to work despite its killer house cats and other dangers.

At the factory where father works, he's begun bribing a female security guard to come back to the house with him periodically in order to, umm, service his son. This causes problems, as Christine would much prefer to have her keyboard licked by the eldest daughter, so she begins bribing eldest daughter to service her. Eldest daughter then begins bribing younger daughter likewise, although she's unclear on which parts of her are supposed to be licked, and the parents' twisted version of paradise is threatened.

I've heard more than one person describe the film as a feature-length version of Steve Martin's 'mambo dogface to the banana patch' routine, and sadly that's not far from the truth. There are some funny bits (I particularly liked the idea of passing planes occasionally falling into the garden as toys for the kids, or the pool randomly spawning fish which the father then goes after with snorkel and spear gun) but when the film tries to be shocking it falls completely flat. If you don't figure out that there's going to be incest somewhere along the way after watching the first five minutes of this movie, you probably shouldn't be watching anything more narratively difficult than Transformers.

The big problem though is that the universe just doesn't make a lot of sense. The movie is apparently set in the real world, which begs the question of how the parents have gotten away with it for so long. These are smart, curious kids, and it's simply not plausible that one of them wouldn't have started sneaking outside the gates before this, even if just to the other side of the road.

There's a good movie in this premise somewhere. Dogtooth, however, isn't it.